Alpha Flight #106
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #106
Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could revive the Northstar as a gay character story line again? I always felt that Mantlo was forced to back out of his dying with AIDS story line which was replaced by that ridiculous faerie story line. Could it be that comics have grown up to the point in which Marvel could openly discuss gay characters in their comics? I felt you were pushing those boundaries with the breast cancer theme -- any chance of pushing those boundaries even further with Northstar?
The response is "...his sexual orientation never changed -- it just hasn't come up lately. But keep your eyes on upcoming issues". That refers to issue #106. It's also worth noting that with these issues, the editor of this book switches from Danny Fingeroth to Bobbie Chase. Chase is also the editor of Hulk, another book (with Hector of the Pantheon and Jim Wilson) that begins dipping its toe into acknowledging that homosexuality exists (for what it's worth, Chase was off the book by the time this went to print; see below regarding that).
The landmark nature of this book is marred in a number of ways. It's simply not a good comic. Art is by Mark Pacella, in his first full length work for Marvel (he had previously done pin-ups and a short King Kull story for Marvel, and he did a Demon story for DC's Action Comics Weekly, and prior to that some work for Eclipse and First). Pacella seems to have chosen Rob Liefeld for a role model. And it's worth repeating what i've said before: despite his reputation today, Liefeld was extremely popular at the time. If that wasn't the case, he would have just been a curious footnote, like other quirky artists (e.g. Tony Salmons), and that would have been the end of it. It's the fact that Liefeld was popular, and therefore emulated, that makes him such a big deal. So it's not bizarre that Pacella would be emulating Liefeld. But that doesn't change the fact that the look of this book screams 90s in the worst way possible. And that's not just about the general look of the book. It's about the layout of the panels, and how people look when they are talking. So that's why the key moment in this issue isn't exactly subtle looking.
That said, while the art is a huge part of why this is not a good comic, it is not the only reason. The other problems range from minor continuity geek concerns to the goofy choice of antagonist to serious characterization problems that, in turn, result in a failure to thread the needle in discussing the connection between homosexuality and AIDS.
Let's start with the most minor of continuity geek concerns (i say it's minor, but in another book i'd be complaining about it more loudly). The issue is Mr. Hyde, who in my opinion is one of Marvel's cooler villains. He had a downturn in the 70s, but was rehabilitated by the great Roger Stern, who built him up again as a credible threat in his Captain America and Spider-Man runs before using him to great effect in his classic Raid on Avengers Mansion storyline. This issue, however, treats him as a complete joke. He's just canon fodder for Alpha Flight to be in a fight with while Northstar incidentally stumbles across a baby infected with AIDS.
I don't need Hyde to take out Alpha Flight single-handedly (although i wouldn't mind), but he shouldn't be defeated in two pages.
The actual antagonist of the piece is also dumb from a continuity perspective, but also just dumb generally. He's Major Maple Leaf, a Golden Age era hero that we've never heard of before.
It's said that Major Maple Leaf continued to be active in the 1950s, fighting a villain that would later confront the Fantastic Four (maybe the Hate-Monger?). Puck also recognizes him and calls him by his first name (Louis).
I'm really tired of new faux Golden Age characters being introduced, especially one that is said to have worked with Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch and yet we've never heard of him.
I say we haven't heard of him, but that's not entirely true. In Uncanny X-Men #109, when Banshee sees Vindicator for the first time, he angrily calls him "Major Maple Leaf" (note the space). It's clearly meant to be an insult, mocking Vindicator's costume. But now we have to wonder if Banshee was seriously confusing Vindicator for Major Mapleleaf. I have to hope that Lobdell was just having fun with the name, that it's basically an Easter egg gone horribly wrong, as opposed to him seriously misinterpreting that line from Banshee.
Even ignoring the retroactive continuity and the misinterpretation (or whatever) of Banshee's line, Major Mapleleaf is ridiculous. His name is ridiculous. His costume is ridiculous. A mountie. Of course. You'd have to think about Canada for a whole 3 seconds before coming up with that. And the name and costume have nothing to do with each other. It's all insultingly stupid.
Which is a shame, because the role the character plays in the story is not at all ridiculous. The idea is that Northstar has taken a special interest in the baby (more on that in a bit) and because of that, the baby is getting a lot of press attention. And Major Mapleleaf doesn't like that.
We don't learn why at first, leaving open the possibility that he's got a problem with people with AIDS or something like that. But it turns out that he's mad because he had a gay son who died of AIDS, and he's angry that the innocent baby gets all the sympathy while the deaths among homosexuals are being ignored or worse.
I think that's a great message and it was probably a more daring message for the time than i can appreciate now. I just wish it wasn't coming from a steroidal guy in a mountie suit.
Another good topic of consideration is raised after Northstar rebuts Mapleleaf by announcing that he's gay. Mapleleaf says that by staying in the closet he's not living up to his potential as a role model.
Northstar is persuaded by Mapleleaf, and he comes out publicly at the end of the issue.
The baby dies in the end. For those tracking characters' religions, Northstar does seem to believe in an afterlife.
My final complaint was about characterization. This is a more nuanced thing, and in and of itself it might not have been a problem. It's worth repeating that with Pacella's art there's just no such thing as subtle. Every conversation in this book is opened mouth screaming, and in general the art style amps up the melodrama 100%. But the thing about Northstar is that throughout his history, he's been known as the jackass. Aloof, insulting, proud. We've mainly seen him care about nothing except his relationship with his sister; that was originally his only motivation for staying on the team. So to see him suddenly become deeply invested in this baby is a sudden turnaround.
Now, Scott Lobdell seems to have been working towards softening Northstar's character, making him more friendly. That was most evident last issue. But Lobdell hasn't been on the book very long and if his goal was to put Northstar through a character arc, it hadn't been completed at this point. And that's fine. There's nothing that says that an arrogant aloof character who is nonetheless a super-hero can't care deeply about a baby suffering from a deadly illness. But couple that with the fact that the focus is put exclusively on Northstar, like this baby with AIDS is just his thing, and it gets a little more questionable.
The message feels like "AIDS is a gay thing", so of course Northstar, and only Northstar of all of Alpha Flight, would get so invested in this baby. Without meaning to, that message runs almost directly against the complaint that Major Mapleleaf brings up.
I want to put this topic in a separate category than the other things i've brought up about this issue. If this can be considered a "mistake" at all, it's a well intentioned one. I just think it's worth observing the path this issue goes down to reveal that Northstar is gay. It's not something that comes out in a downtime subplot scene where we meet a boyfriend or something; it has to be part of a super-fight. And it has to be while dealing with the topic of AIDS, and not even specifically about AIDS in the homosexual community. It's all just very clumsy and unsubtle. That's especially disappointing since it's been an open secret all along that Northstar is gay, and this issue is confirming it. The dramatic proclamation just feels over the top.
All that said, i think it's still very admirable for Scott Lobdell and company to come out with this story. This was not an easy story to do, both in terms of fans and Marvel's upper management. In this issue, in reaction to the letter and response from issue #100 (quoted at the top) there is one positive letter and one negative. The negative letter:
In your 100th issue, a reader talked about reviving Northstar as a gay character. I must say hearing this takes me back. I believe the world is in need of more open minds, but I'm bothered by this. A comic is supposed to tell of heroic people and their lives. here I thought people looked up to hereos. I might just be closed-minded, but I don't look up to people who can't follow the natural pattern of sexual conduct. We, the most intellectual animals, should at least know how to live. If our animals have better morals than we do, shouldn't the rats experiment on us, and the dogs keep us on chains?
You look up to lesbian and gay heroes every day... you just don't realize that they're gay. But does it really matter? If someone risks their life to save another, is the act any less heroic because of whom that someone loves? As a fan of the mutant titles, you should realize that it's better to judge a person by what they do than who they are -- whether that's Homo sapiens superior or homosexual.
In Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe writes about the behind-the-scenes reactions to this issue:
After Scott Lobdell wrote an issue of Alpha Flight in which a character declared his homosexuality, Marvel's PR department issued a string of no comments to CNN and newspapers while reports circulated that [company owner] Ron Perelman had gone ballistic. Rob Tokar, the Marvel editor who'd inherited Alpha Flight shortly after the story was approved, was summoned into [president] Terry Stewart's office for an explanation. Tokar's assistant extended his hand and, assuming the worst, bid him farewell.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 80,077. Single issue closest to filing date = 71,010.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: At least 3 weeks pass during the course of this story. In Quasar #35, which is a Galactic Storm epilogue, we see a headline from the Daily Bugle that reads "Canadian Hero Reveals He's Gay", so this takes place before or during Operation: Galactic Storm (and definitely before Quasar #35).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showAurora, Mr. Hyde, Northstar, Puck, Sasquatch, Vindicator (Heather Hudson), Wild Child, Windshear
I've spoken to Mark once or twice when he almost did some work for MY comics company (Hound Comics) and he was professional, polite, and a complete gentleman and the work he submitted did lose some of the Liefeld qualities you talk about here but we have to remember the Liefeld phenomenon was not just a hype it was a legit influence. Rob Liefeld was and is the Jack Kirby of his generation and his style was infectious and it is proven as Deadpool is a mainstream hit and one of the most original characters in comics. I think personally a lot of the Liefeld hate has always just been jealousy
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Comics CEO | January 25, 2016 1:13 PM
No jealousy from me. I remember seeing a lot of 90s Marvel comics and actually being freaked out by the Liefeld inspired style.
Posted by: david banes | January 25, 2016 3:34 PM
Liefeld as the Kibry of his day? I dunno. I always saw him as one of the more extreme (heh) exponents of a style that people like Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri pioneered on X-Men.
Back to the comic at hand though, when I finally read this thing I was surprised by how... good it was. Not that it was good, but it wasn't the complete irredeemable piece of garbage I was expecting from the few scans I had seen online. It isn't just Northstar shouting "I AM GAY" while fighting a homophobe, Major Mapleleaf actually has some great points, which I never would've expected in a comic from this era.
Of course, everything else about the thing is horrible, but that alone made me respect this issue a whole lot more.
Posted by: Berend | January 25, 2016 4:21 PM
As someone who is not, and has never been, jealous of Rob Liefeld, I can confirm that he is not the Jack Kirby of his generation, and that he is and always was a pretty horrible artist and a joke of a writer. I actively avoided his work in the 90s, and looking back at it now, I can say with confidence that I made the right choice. Also, to the extent that Deadpool is popular today, that credit should go to Joe Kelly, the first person to ever write good Deadpool comics.
Posted by: Andrew F | January 25, 2016 4:46 PM
Its sad when such an important moment in comics (well Marvel) happens in a turd like this. No it shouldn't be hammy or with Liefeld-esque art but Northstar admitting he's gay should have had...well, dignity.
Posted by: Ataru320 | January 25, 2016 5:04 PM
"The landmark nature of this book is marred in a number of ways. It's simply not a good comic." This pretty much sums up my opinion when I picked up the issue after reading it being hyped up.
I'd completely forgot that there was a Major Mapleleaf, and now I find there will be a 2nd character who takes up the name Major Mapleleaf in a later Alpha Flight series.
As for the name Major Mapleleaf being mentioned by Banshee back in X-Men, it's a joking reference to the fact Guardian's costume looks like Captain Canuck, who'd been introduced a few years earlier, but they clearly didn't want to use the character's actual name. Not sure if this is common knowledge to everyone else, but over here in the UK I only know who Captain Canuck is 'cos Byrne mentioned the similarity of the costumes.
Posted by: Jonathan | January 25, 2016 5:51 PM
Actually while this would never be completely a good comic, I do place most of the blame on the art. I've been thinking about this sort of thing recently after reading Fnord's recent review of Doctor Strange 36. A mediocre comic with good art can seem okay. But in that review I saw how a mediocre comic with bad art becomes twice as bad.
This sub-Liefeld art just doesn't suit any of the serious points Lobdell was trying to make. I think if it had just been a standard Marvel house style artist like they'd had in the 80s, it wouldn't have seemed so ridiculous. Sadly, Marvel had a lot of artists who couldn't tell a story in 92, and as far as I can remember it stays that way for a while.
Posted by: Jonathan | January 25, 2016 6:08 PM
Grant Morrison had a pretty good laugh at this issue in his book Supergods.
Considering the speculator's market of the time and the press this issue got, I wonder if it was the highest selling issue of Alpha Flight.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 25, 2016 6:59 PM
Let me clarify I do not mean to say Rob is influenced or appears like Jack Kirby in his art. All I mean is- the dynamicism. Look at his double page spreads and how the characters leap out of the panels. What other artist did that? Uh, KIRBY. Plus, Liefeld created like, a BAZILLION characters, all lucrative, all game changing. Again... just like Kirby. I appear as a celebrity guest at dozens of major conventions around the country and I am surprised no one else has ever made the Liefeld-Kirby connection. It just makes sense.
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Comics CEO | January 25, 2016 7:34 PM
I'm no celebrity but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night and the only connection I see between Liefeld and Kirby is that they both knew how to hold a pencil. Although Liefeld was holding his while swiping the work of better artists and passing it off as his own. You're right that Liefeld did create a bunch of characters -- derivative, shallow characters that were all style and no substance. They were not all "game-changers," either, unless Shatterstar has made a much more profound impact than I'm aware of. The guy had no sense of anatomy and his storytelling abilities were (and are) shit. He was dynamic, though, I'll give him that. One of the best pin-up artists of his day. Anything more than that and he had to turn to ripping off Perez or Byrne or Bright or a dozen other guys just to make a deadline.
Posted by: Robert | January 25, 2016 7:55 PM
Oh, and yes, he was highly influential in the worst way. Because of his success, artists with little talent and no desire to draw anything but splash pages realized that they could be a success with minimal effort and no attempt to hone their craft, just copy what the other guy was doing and cash in.
Posted by: Robert | January 25, 2016 7:59 PM
Robert, you're going to eat those words when Netflix announces its TV series starring Forearm
Posted by: Andrew F | January 25, 2016 8:02 PM
LOL that would be hilarious. Look, I am hitting Rob hard here mainly because of the hyperbole above but he was a big deal at the time, however good or bad that was, and lots of kids ate his stuff up. I was among them for a minute. Today it all just looks so very very ugly to me, putting aside opinions about the man's character for a moment.
Posted by: Robert | January 25, 2016 8:18 PM
Interesting that the letters page describes Alpha Plight as a "mutant book" despite a premise that is actually rather disconnected from it.
Typical 1990s attempt at raising sales by forcing a perception of connection to the X-Books, I assume.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 25, 2016 8:39 PM
Oh, and Rob Liefeld was never better than mediocre as a penciler, and he is certainly not any better as a writer.
That did not stop him from being a strong influence in the 1990s, but did not make him any better a creator, either.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 25, 2016 9:02 PM
I agree that Liefeld was influential like Jack Kirby given that throughout the 90s many artists used variations of his art style and character designs much like artists from the previous generation did their own versions of Kirby's art and character designs.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 26, 2016 1:57 AM
I have to respectfully disagree as someone who is IN the comics industry I think my instinct will bear out... Rob created legendary and groundbreaking characters... look at X-Force, Cable, Deadpool, Youngblood.. NOTHING like that had been seen before, and nothing has since... I personally believe that the industry was threatened by Liefeld since he was so prolific in the way Kirby was, just an endless source of new concepts and new ideas.. I almost think that the stuff people complain about (splash, lack of backgrounds) is just that Rob's relentless imagination make him eager to get the work done and move on to his next game-changer.. he really IS to comics what Kirby was to Marvel in the 1960s... the proof is in the pudding to make me sound like an old dude LOL but really, if he wasn't an original how do you explain the success of Deadpool, the most original and popular character of the last 30 years??
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Actor, Comics CEO | January 26, 2016 3:32 AM
Liefeld, the Kirby of his day?! Maybe if Kirby had written and drawn nothing but 'Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers'.
"Liefeld LOVES comics..!"
Edward D. Wood loved directing movies. William McGonagall loved writing poems. But they're still terrible.
Posted by: Oliver_C | January 26, 2016 5:27 AM
Some day there will be an explanation for why Liefeld was so influential at this point in time.
It certainly wasn't due to any artistic merits.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 26, 2016 6:41 AM
Rob Liefeld's appeal is that a teenager in the 90s seeing Rob's art would think, "Hey, I can draw like that." It's 'cool'in an amatuer comic book sort of way.
I cannot honestly believe that someone who isn't having a laugh thinks Liefeld is the Kirby of his day. Bwhahahahahahahaha! Brilliant! Deadpool and at a pinch Cable are his most notable characters he created. The rest I've only come across because of this site -- I stopped reading comics in the 90s mainly because the stories were bad and the art was awful -- thanks, Liefeld & co.
OK, back to the story. Er, bad just bad. This was handled so badly that it takes away any good it may have done from a very serious issue. It's a shame with better storytelling capabilities and better writing it could have been a significant story.
Posted by: JSfan | January 26, 2016 7:06 AM
again I think you guys are just taking the "comics hipster" view and not looking at facts: Liefeld created so many new characters and concepts the likes that comics have NEVER SEEN. He is very underrated in regards to the sheer amount of original characters he has created: Youngblood, Doom's IV, BloodStrike, Prophet, etc. etc..
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Actor, Comics CEO | January 26, 2016 7:57 AM
Youngblood, Doom's IV, BloodStrike, Prophet. Who? Where are they now? They're just throw away charcters with 'really cool' names. Pah!
Kirby's art was stylised but at least he understood the basic fundamentals of anatomy, the way Liefeld's characters contorted into weird poses is just stupid.
By-the-way, I like his earlier work when he was on the verge of being a good artist but somewhere along the line he just fell apart. Look, I disagree with your argument that Liefeld is the Kirby of his day and I'll leave it at that. I'm sorry, this thread as veered away from a comic book story which tackles a sensitive and important subject.
Posted by: JSfan | January 26, 2016 8:25 AM
WTF is a comics hipster? Certainly not a geek in their late 30s who's been reading Marvels since the Shooter era?
Posted by: cullen | January 26, 2016 8:34 AM
How in the world did an article about the issue where Northstar comes out turn into an argument about Rob Liefeld? At least if we're talking about Liefeld's influence (or utter abominations), we should keep it to an article about a Liefeld comic. (BTW: all I can think of with Youngblood and Doom's IV is Linkara freak-outs on how horrifying they get)
Hoping to end the subject: Liefeld had dynamic elements that made him important for a generation and helped found one of the most important independent comic companies out there today in Image, plus "created" Cable and Deadpool. That's it: that's all his importance to the comic world is, and let's leave it at that.
Posted by: Ataru320 | January 26, 2016 8:48 AM
What color is the sky on a world where "Liefeld created Youngblood!" is a compliment? Deadpool I will credit (however reluctantly) with a certain wise-cracking ubiquity and longevity, but Youngblood?!
Posted by: Oliver_C | January 26, 2016 9:33 AM
I didn't mean for a heated discussion to get started so early in the morning LOL! I don't mean to get sidetracked from this (important?) issue of Alpha Flight but the initial suggestion was that the artist is trying to emulate Liefeld. This understandably got us into talking about the progression of styles in the 1990s and how Marvel's artists were probably told to ape the Liefeld style. It seemed like there was surprise or confusion about this so I was explaining how monumental and original Liefelds career has been and I gotta stand behind that. Everything about Deadpool is unlike anything ever seen in comics before! The debt we all owe Liefeld is a big one. Truth.
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Actor, Comics CEO | January 26, 2016 9:39 AM
Deadpool saved Marvel?? LOL! What reality did that happen in?
Alpha Flight should have been cancelled long ago by this point. It's a great example of a series that had no reason to continue without the original creator.
Posted by: Bill | January 26, 2016 9:41 AM
Deadpool is the #1 character in comics and look how he's one of the most demanded characters in the Marvel Universe today and the merchandise. It couldn't happen by accident. Liefeld knew he was creating characters who were marketable and unlike anything seen before in comics.
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Actor, Comics CEO | January 26, 2016 9:52 AM
Brimstone, please re-read my comments policy regarding back-and-forth exchanges and last word-ism.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 26, 2016 10:02 AM
I think you're all missing the point Brimstone is trying to make. In the 60s (and early 70s), Marvel artists were all influenced by Jack Kirby and tried to emulate his style, because he was being successful. Liefeld started making the same impact in the 90s with his "stylized" art and that's why other artists wanted to emulate it - today we see it as being horrible and amateurish, but at the time Liefeld was totally making the impact Kirby did in the 60s. His "extreme" characters and comics were, in the 90s, what Kirby's creations were in the 60s and 70s. The only thing is that, unlike Kirby, Liefeld and his creations were pretty much all hype and no substance, which is why it's hard to see Liefeld as the Jack Kirby of the 90s. Fnord raises pretty much the same point in his reviews of the early Liefeld New Mutants issues.
Posted by: Enchlore | January 26, 2016 10:02 AM
fnord12, I apologize bro if I broke any rules. Wasn't thinking about that or trying to have last word just enjoying the conversation but I will put a lid on it ! I enjoy your work and as a public figure I have to avoid anything that looks like I'm arguing! All is well at Team Brim LOL
and Enchlore thanks! that is all I was saying, I was not trying to say that Liefeld is "like" Kirby, just the style set for other artists to emulate is similar and both created a lot of IP for Marvel....
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Actor, Comics CEO | January 26, 2016 10:16 AM
I am curious if Mark Pacella still works as an artist and, if so, what his art style looks like nowadays.
I bring this up because of Dan Panosian, who inked Pacella on this issue and on a few issues of X-Force. Panosian also did some penciling himself for Marvel and Image in a very Liefeld-inspired style. Then in the late 1990s Panosian went to work in advertising and storyboards, among other things. At that point a funny thing happened: when he came back to the comic book biz around 2008 or 2009, his style looked COMPLETELY different. Seriously, if you look at the artwork Panosian has done within the last seven or eight years, is bears absolutely no resemblance to Liefeld. Nowadays Panosian is doing some really amazing stuff.
I find it really interesting that Liefeld himself has been drawing almost exactly the same since the early 1990s. He hasn't grown or developed since then. But if you then look at a number of the artists who started out as clones of him, and then examine their own careers, a number of them eventually grew into really great artists.
Posted by: Ben Herman | January 26, 2016 7:22 PM
I don't know if this is the case for Dan Panosian, but many artists will intentionally use a different style when working mainstream comics, usually either what's considered popular or the current "house style" of the company.
Herb Trimpe, for instance, said that he copied the Image look in the 90s so that he'd continue to get work from Marvel. Anyone who didn't know that would look at his 90s work and think he'd completely lost his ability to draw.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 26, 2016 9:40 PM
I am kinda reluctant to comment bc I don't wanna get fnord mad at me for not obeying the rules- brah, I'm not trying to have the last word, honest!!! :) but I want to comment on Ben Hermans comment, in that I feel like a lot of artists who are successful don't really have to change their style or evolve. Look at Byrne... its a successful formula so why does he change it? Kirby didn't change (he just got worse) and even Sal Buscemas work has all them same tropes but it works! Rob is one of the most influencial and important comic creators in history- def in the Top 10- so I guess it never occurred to him that he has to change.
but back to this issue and Pacella: I think this could be less a case like old Herb Trimpe trying to, and Pacella just naturally being inspired by Liefeld. after all Trimpe was a veteran and Pacella was an up and comer. Possible that's all. And we cant discount that maybe Bobbie Chase (Editor) told the new guys to try to study Rob's work.
Posted by: Brimstone: Wrestler, Celebrity, Actor, Comics CEO | January 26, 2016 10:07 PM
For anyone wanting to continue the Liefeld/Kirby debate without cluttering up this issue's comments, JSFan has kindly created a forum thread.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 27, 2016 9:05 AM
Bringing this thread back to the comic at hand, this comic is thoroughly disappointing for such an important issue. This may seem hypocritical, as I like Roy Thomas' work on Invaders and love his similar DC work on All-Star Squadron, but Major Mapleleaf is just a pathetic joke. Banshee was making a joke about the costume and now we have a character dressed like a mountie with a stupid name?
And regardless of the quality of the art, to have the serious issues at hand here discussed in an issue when all the characters are just shouting at each other just shows had badly designed it all was.
It almost felt like Marvel was just like, hey, well no one reads Alpha Flight anyway, so why not deal with it all there. True, Northstar's sexuality made it the right place to deal with it, but still, it just reeked of shoving it to the side.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 20, 2016 2:13 PM
This should definitely not be seen as high praise, but is this the best non-John Byrne issue of the Alpha Flight book?
Also Major Mapleleaf is just painful. And goes a long way to invalidate nearly any of the merit this issue had.
Had Jim Lee drawn this one and Major Mapleleaf substituted for anything else (even just the name, for God's sake), I could see myself happily saying this was the best non-Byrne issue.
Unfortunately, we have Major Mapleleaf and below average art to dress around the mediocre-but-just-effective-enough story.
Posted by: AF | July 1, 2016 4:54 PM
@AF I think it's an important book in Marvel's publishing history. It furthers Northstar's development as a LGBTQ character, which is important for Marvel in the 21st century. But it doesn't really effect the ongoing plot lines of Alpha Flight or Jean-Paul's relationships with the other Flight members(since they, of course, already knew he was gay). This is an issue that does one thing really well, which is have the panel of Northstar announcing he's gay in the middle of a badly drawn battle scene. Art could have been better, but the story itself is so basic and one note that it could only ever be a middling issue at best. It wasn't about being a "good" comic as much as it was about "Northstar comes out."
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | July 1, 2016 11:22 PM
But... keep in mind... how awful every other non-Byrne Alpha Flight issue is... and this one sort of wins by default of having a single merit.
Posted by: AF | July 2, 2016 5:47 AM
@AF When you put it that way....considering every other post-Byrne issue did either abominable or place-holding things to the other characters...I'll grant it has a single merit(as I did do). However, I also say this: If one was to read this issue after a marathon of all Byrne issues, the whiplash would be mentally paralyzing.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | July 2, 2016 1:38 PM
I started collecting AF back issues after picking up #41 randomly in some used 25 cent box, and it def made me start seeking out more issues (as well as initiating an enduring fondness for Kara Killgrave). I'm pretty sure that issue the highest grade of any post-Byrne AF on this site
Posted by: George Lochinski | July 2, 2016 3:26 PM
(I picked up issues 49 & 50 shortly tgereafter, and though I can't really defend it from those who would disparage it, I personally was very taken by the bonkers dysphoria (of #49 especially) and by June Brigman's art. That issue still feels like a combination of an old Marvel monster comic and an early Cronenberg film
Posted by: George Lochinski | July 2, 2016 3:33 PM
I splurged on the Marvel Unlimited digital subscription and have been enjoying checking out a lot of old comics. After reading the first dozen or so issues, it jumps pretty much straight to issue 160. And yeah, it's severe whiplash to go from the Byrne stuff to this. One thing I'm surprised no one has commented on is the utterly bizarre villain logic in this story. Former hero is upset that AIDS baby is getting all the sympathy that his son didn't... so in his rage he decides that the best thing to do is wreck the hospital and KILL THE BABY? And when the baby dies, he is allowed to just walk around and hug the weirdly steroidal Northstar? I mean, this issue was bad for all the reasons discussed above, but it's also bad because the plot makes no damn sense.
Posted by: Stagewalker | November 23, 2016 8:57 PM
Looking back on this now, I understand the HIV link to the gay thing seems contrived and patronizing, but remember, it was only 1992! You'll have to place it in that timeframe to fully understand (like we understand where this type of art comes from very well lol). It was less than ten years after male gays in the west were suddenly plagued with a mysterious disease that seemed to out oppertune diseases and kill at random. "Gay cancer" they called it in the early '80s until they identified the source as a virus. The year in the real world leading up to this issue had a lot going on; the Red Ribbon project launched in 1991; Magic Johnson made public he has HIV; and also late that year, Freddy Mercury's death unfortunately coincided with the outing of his sexuality AND HIV infection. That was four months before this issue. It is clear to me that a lot of people felt that they should do something with an aids/gay theme, and Northstar seemed perfectly suited. It wasn't well executed, but you've got to have respect for what they were trying to do.
How could they have done this somewhat better? A month before this issue, people with HIV were officially permitted to take part in Olympic games; which could somehow have been the PERFECT link to Northstar. They should have temporarily depowered him, allowing him to go back to professional sports and meeting up with old friends. Oh well.
Posted by: Spikey | January 14, 2017 7:40 AM
What is the most interesting dynamic in this story btw; the struggle between closeting and outing yourself that is highlighted. I've never made a secret of my own sexuality, but I can't say I always feel an automatic connection to everyone else who identifies as gay/lesbian. It is just such a private thing, in many cases it is more comfortable to be closeted, and no moral obligation should force someone out of the closet; thus reinforcing some sort of vicious circle for which you can take no personal responsibility.
Posted by: Spikey | January 14, 2017 7:57 AM
I have to admit that I completely unexpected the comment thread for this issue. I especially like Oliver's "What color is the sky on a world where "Liefeld created Youngblood!" is a compliment?" statement. Brimstone Wrestler almost seemed like a troll at first, but his ongoing argument and bizarre logic almost makes *sense*, albeit in some weird rationalization way. I was posting and heavily reading this site a year and a half ago (under George Gordon, which is too long to type now) and do not recall seeing this Liefeld/Kirby thing. Wow.
Posted by: Wis | January 20, 2017 5:19 AM
Hang on tight little AIDS baby. VROOOOOOM
Posted by: Tedbundyspants | July 3, 2017 9:23 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|